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Iceland vs Croatia
2018 FIFA World Cup, Group D
Croatia have topped Group D with three wins, having fought off a valiant Iceland to win the last group match 2-1.
Iceland leave with their heads held high, but in a similar fashion to Australia, the inability to score has ultimately been their downfall.
A lacklustre first half saw Iceland finish the stronger, with the most meaningful chances of the game, however it was Croatia who opened the scoring in the second half through Ivan Badelj. Iceland’s tournament hopes appeared lost, until a clear handball by Croatia gave Gylfi Sigurdsson the opportunity to convert from the spot, not only making up for his Nigeria miss, but keeping Iceland in this world cup.
Alas for the Icelanders, it was not to be, a 90th minute strike to Ivan Perisic sealing Iceland’s fate, and keeping Croatia on top.
A fascinating end to this group, and while never excitement at every turn, an enjoyable match nonetheless. Croatia can now look to the knockout stage and a match up with Denmark, while Iceland’s participation is finished, but their presence in this world cup will not be easily forgotten.
We continue with the final group round matches, with the meeting between an Iceland team trying to keep their slim tournament hopes alive, and Croatia, who are trying to wrap up top spot in Group D. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 4am (AEST).
Both matches to finish Group D are alive, with implications for all four teams technically able to make the knockout stage of the competition.
Iceland will be marginally disappointed with their last-start loss to Nigeria. The group was there for the taking for them, having successfully navigated that daunting first up match with Argentina. Unfortunately, Croatia’s demolition of the South Americans put Iceland’s failings into perspective.
Iceland are a disciplined, formidable, energetic team who, to a man, play with a complete trust in one another
But ask Australia, and those characteristics are all for nought if you do not have that final ingredient: goal scoring. With just the one goal to their name, Iceland simply did not threaten the Nigerian defence enough, and once Nigeria turned on the pace, the Iceland team simply had no reply.
The structured Croatian play should suit Iceland’s style more, giving them hope of resurrecting their tournament, but they will need to find a way to hit the back of the net, and often, if they are to secure a surprise passage to the last 16.
Croatia have had a tournament to remember and, regardless of what happens in the next round, the victory over Argentina will live long in the memory.
Luka Modric has been, to put it simply, sublime, controlling his team with the stamp of a world-class midfielder who is at the peak of his powers. He certainly has come a long way from that fresh-faced 20-year-old who took to the field against Australia in Germany 12 years ago.
Croatia will want to finish on a high. While a draw will be enough to see them still top the group, going into a cut-throat knockout match off the back of a less than impressive performance can spell danger sometimes, and Zlatko Dalic will be reminding his players that confidence can breed complacency, which is not the mentality you want when your next match has the potential to be your last.
Also, Croatia have the opportunity to do something they’ve never done before: win three world cup matches in a row. That little place in history would sit nicely with a team already looking to make waves.
Iceland will be desperate, but I’m not convinced that desperation will be enough to carry them over the line against a superior opponent with more confidence, and enough incentive to press for a win.
Croatia having kept two clean sheets, will also make it a third against a team that has scored just the one goal.
Iceland 0 – Croatia 2
Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 4am (AEST).